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Resume Tips for Oldies (That's You--Baby Boomers)
December 3, 2010
Plenty of advice out there for the young and the restless seeking jobs--like that nifty video about interviewing skills by Goldman Sachs. But what about the older crew--namely those 45 or over who are out there job hunting? What are the strategies they should use in this mean job market?
This topic could be a book, but let's just focus on the resume for now. I have friends who can't bring themselves to even cobble together a resume--much less look for another job--because they cringe at the idea of putting down their year of college graduation. They assume--rightly or wrongly--that prospective employers would faint the minute they see their class year.
Of course, they might be selling themselves short by not seeking alternatives. Or they might not have a choice if they are getting laid off.
Recently, AOL Jobs offered some tips for older job seekers about how to make resumes fresh and alluring. Here's my adaptation of those tips for you baby-boomer lawyers:
1. Don't describe yourself as a lawyer with "X-number of years of experience" or use phrases like "seasoned" litigator. Both terms suggest that you really are an old fogey.
2. Don't use outdated phrases like "references available upon request" or "responsible for" or "duties included." And avoid calling yourself an "out-of-the-box thinker." All those terms suggest you are simply out of it.
3. Emphasize current expertise. Some lawyers can't help themselves but list every document they've ever gotten their hands on. But resist that urge and focus on one or two areas of expertise.
4. Briefly list a history of jobs and employers. "Account for early work experience to keep the chronology consistent and transparent, but abbreviate this experience when possible." Legal recruiter Dan Binstock also advocates giving a brief reason for leaving each job, because, he says, "it makes it easier for employers to understand the move." For instance, if you got laid off because of the economy, you should mention that you had received "top reviews and billed 2,200 hours" until the slowdown, says Binstock.
5. Disclose graduation dates, but keep the education section "subtle and brief." Lawyers, more than other professionals, love to sniff out gaps, so face the music. Dropping the class year, warns Binstock, "sends the message that the person is insecure" and "reduces the trust factor."
6. Make your extra curricular activities sound dynamic. "Hobbies that suggest a vibrant and healthy lifestyle may help counter any potential age bias. So if you are an avid runner, skier, triathlete, etc., go ahead and include this information on your resume." I'd add that Pilates and martial arts are probably fine too, though I'd eliminate any reference to aerobics (smacks of Jane Fonda workout tapes from the 1980s).
The sad truth, though, is that firms and companies do screen out candidates because of age. "No one wants to admit it, but there's a lot of discrimination on the age end," says Binstock.
But in the law firm market, at least, age doesn't matter as long as you've got clients. In that case, you could be on a respirator and still find a warm home. "It all comes down to portable business," sums up Binstock.
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